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Diary of a Beer Girl: drinking my way around the Commonwealth

To bid goodbye to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I thought it would be fun to try beers from a variety of different Commonwealth countries. 

I was trying to time it so I could drink each beer while the corresponding country was competing! In this post, I'll talk about brewing in each of the countries and in my next post I'll do reviews of all the beers I bought.

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Canada

Beer was first introduced to Canada by European settlers in the 17th century. It became hugely popular because the cold climate was ideal for making beer before the invention of cooling systems. As a result, the brewing industry became quite big and lots of breweries sprang up around Canada. However, the prohibition caused most of these to close and  nowadays, most of Canada's breweries have been bought by big, international companies leaving Moosehead as the largest Canadian owned brewery. It was founded in 1867 by Susannah Oland and is still owned by the Oland family today. However, I'll be trying a lager by the Hop City brewery called Barking Squirrel lager

Australia

When the British colonised Australia, they brought beer with them, and the love for beer certainly hasn't died. In 2014, Australia was ranked second in the world of beer consumption per capita with the average Australian drinking 304 beers per year. But, because of high prices, they spend more than any other country - around $790 on beer per person per year. Even Australia's former Prime Minister Bob Hawke once held a record for the fastest time drinking a yard of beer.

People tend to associate Fosters with Australia, but while it's one of the two biggest breweries (Lion Nathan being the other), it's brewed mainly for export. The largest Australian owned brewery is Coopers who are based in Adelaide. Coopers are also the world's largest producers of homebrewing equipment. I've got one of their most popular beers to try - the pale ale.

Bangladesh

OK, I'm kind of cheating with this one, as the beer I've got, Bangla, isn't actually from Bangladesh, it's just inspired by the country. However, I wanted to include Bangladesh in the line-up because there's an interesting story to its brewing industry.

Because it's a Muslim country, Bangladesh has very strict alcohol laws. However, their definition of beer is a malt and hops based drink containing between 5% and 8.5% alcohol. So, a company called Crown and Hunter jumped on this loophole and began brewing Hunter, a 'malt beverage' which had an ABV of less than 5%. As you can imagine, this caused some amount of controversy. Even more controversial was the packaging, which looks (just a little) like something you may have seen before... try Googling 'Hunters beer Bangladesh' to see what  I mean.

Sadly, I didn't manage to get my hands on any Hunters so the Bangla will have to suffice. They describe it on the website as "having a deep gold colour, reminiscent of the golden hue of the sun setting over the Bay of Bengal". Since it was actually brewed in Horsham, this can count as my English beer as well!

Barbados

Brewing is relatively popular in the Caribbean with each of the islands brewing their take on the classic lager which they export all over the world. The most common Caribbean beer being Red Stripe from Jamaica which I'm sure you'll have seen before!

The most famous brewery in Barbados is Banks brewery but microbreweries are becoming more and more popular making the Bajan beer industry very up and coming and exciting even though it's a relatively young industry. I've got a beer called 10 Saints to try which is aged in rum casks. It'll be interesting to see how it compares to Scottish rum cask aged beer such as Innis and Gun.

Sri Lanka

The majority of the beer consumed in Sri Lanka is brewed within the country itself with imports only taking up a small percentage of the market share. The oldest and largest brewery in Sri Lanka is the Lion brewery with the other two biggest beer producers being Asia Pacific Breweries and McCallum Brewery. Lion brewery has gone through many name and owner changes throughout its time but when it was first opened it was called Ceylon Brewery and was built for the British colonial tea plantations. 

In hot countries, you imagine light, refreshing beers to be most popular, but in Sri Lanka, strong stouts tend to be the drink of choice and so I've gone for one of their most popular beers, a Lion Stout.

Nigeria

Nigeria actually has its own brewing process which produces two drinks called Pito and Burukutu. They use sorghum malt and sometimes maize as well. When making burukutu, gari, which is a starchy powder that comes from cassava, is added which makes it thicker and more brown than Pito. As well as these, there are also breweries that produce more mainstream beer, including Nigerian Guinness which is nearly double the strength of the Irish version! However, there has been a bit of a lull in the brewing industry recently because people have been switching from lager to drinking non-alcoholic beer mixed with Alomo bitters. I have a bottle of Gulder lager, but I'm really interested in getting my hands on some Pito or Buruktu to try out.

Mauritius

The Mauritian beer market isn't the most exciting since Phoenix brewery is by far the biggest producer on the island. However, some microbreweries are beginning to pop up so things are looking more interesting for the future. Phoenix beer is quite well known and has won quite a few international awards but the brewery also makes a stonger lager, Blue Marlin, a pilsner, Stella Pils and a Mauritian version of the classic Guinness!

Cyprus

There are very minimal historical records of beer in Cyprus and it's presumed that it wasn't actually introduced until the late 19th century by British colonisers. The first shipment on the 'Thessalia' that arrived to Cyprus after the British took over from the Turks in 1878, brought 50 barrels of beer, which adds further evidence to the case that beer wasn't widely available in Cyprus at that time.

However, in recent times, beer has become a much more popular drink, spurred by the opening of the country's first commercial brewery - Leonbeer - opening in 1937. KEO brewery followed suit and opened in 1951. These are still the predominant breweries in the country and KEO even won a gold medal in the 1987 Brewing Industry International Awards!

I'll be trying KEO to see  if it lives up to its gold medal status...

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